KLAS discusses benefits of wireless UC systems in hospitals

SearchHealthIT.com recently caught up with Jeremy Goff, senior research director at KLAS Enterprises LLC, to discuss one of the health care IT-ratings company's newest reports, "Internal Wireless Voice Communication System."

In this interview from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's HIMSS 2011 conference, Goff discusses hospital wireless unified communications (UC) systems with Features Writer Don Fluckinger. Goff explains why the technology appeals to health care providers and how it fits into IT strategic plans during this boom period for health IT. He also answers what might be CIOs' most pressing question when they evaluate these systems: Why would one purchase and implement a hospital UC system instead of simply distributing smartphones?

Let us know what you think about the video; email Don Fluckinger, Features Writer.

Read the full text transcript from this video below. Please note the full transcript is for reference only and may include limited inaccuracies. To suggest a transcript correction, contact editor@searchsecurity.com.    

Don Fluckinger: At the HIMSS show in Orlando, KLAS announced a new research category, wireless voice over Internet protocol, or VOIP communication systems. I sat down with Senior Research Director, Jeremy Goff, to discuss this new way of communicating in the hospital environment. He broke down market trends, as well as talked about why hospitals would choose these systems over smart phones, and when they would.  Why has CLASS started this new research category on internal voice over Internet protocol wireless communication systems?

Jeremy Goff:   KLAS has been covering software for a number of years, close to 10, closer to 12 years actually, and then along came services and medical equipment. Over the past little while we have been covering these three areas, software, services, medical equipment. Over the past few years, we have been hearing from our providers, ‘Do you have any information on hospital infrastructure? We are wanting to see some of your ratings and vendor performance on this area.’ It has been a while in the making that KLAS has been looking at infrastructure, trying to decide, ‘OK. How do we do this? What vendors are a part of this hospital infrastructure piece? What makes sense for providers? What type of information do they want to consume, that is really healthcare specific information they can't really find elsewhere.’

As we were thinking about that wireless communication systems, these internal end devices the hospital used for this internal communication between clinicians, also between patients and clinicians, it became pretty apparent to us that this will be a good entry point into this infrastructure area for us. That was the reason why we kicked off our infrastructure segment with internal wireless communication systems.

Don Fluckinger: Well, tell me a little bit about these systems. They have been around for a decade, but why is there a spike in interest in them now, enough for KLAS to delve into it?

Jeremy Goff:   You are right, they have been around for a while. They started out probably in the mid to late '90s really, with what you refer to as the 900 frequency, so the voice was really running off of the same frequency that you might see in your home, for your home phone system. They have been around for a while. As networks, they were kind of beefed up and became more voice over IP ready - it was kind of a natural progression, for both the providers and vendors to really evolve the device into a voice over IP or a WiFi-type device. In terms of interest, I think providers are certainly making investments in this type of technology, they understand the possibilities and the potential for what they can do with the devices. That was really what the interest was about, and why KLAS decided do some research on this area.

Don Fluckinger: Just to make it clear to our viewers of the website, we are not talking about replacing wired systems with a Vonage. You are talking about the internal communication systems that nurses carry the end-point devices around.

Jeremy Goff:   Exactly. These are built for internal communications, wireless communications, so the vendors that we looked at, that really dominate this market are Cisco, Vocera, PolyCom with the acquired SpectraLink product, Avia, and Ascom. These are the kind of the vendors that cater to this market.

Don Fluckinger: What did you find in the report you released here at HIMS or just right before, about this market? What were the greatest tips?

Jeremy Goff:   So, there was a number of key findings. One, it is an area where we believe there is a lot of potential to really accelerate, to increase the usage. One of the main findings was that integration leads to better patient care in the minds of caregivers, or clinicians, or the people that we interviewed. In this study, we talked with 110 unique provider organizations. We went out, we did in-depth interview survey process with these people, comprised of a good number of C-level - CIO - interviews, directors. We talked to some people on the nursing side. As part of this research, we talked to them and asked them, ‘What do you like about it? How does the technology help you? What do you see for the future with the technology? Are there some areas you think that technology can improve?’

All these questions we asked and we got some answers back. One of them was, ‘These devices are mainly being used in nursing. We feel like they should be, and could be, expanded out across nursing and physicians, so we have everybody on one device, possibly, being able to communicate with each other.’ That was one key finding, that they really want to expand the usage of these. The other is integration. Mainly these devices were being integrated currently with nurse call systems, that is the main point of communication or integration. What these folks told us is, ‘Not only do we feel that patient care improves when there is more integration points, so more alerts come with these devices, but clinicians are also happier with the device.’

Don Fluckinger: What would you say is the main takeaway point for a CIO who might be watching this video and thinking about getting one of these systems?

Jeremy Goff:   The main takeaway, and I would just encourage them to take a look at our research, because there is really quite a few takeaways. One, is to really consider, if you are going to make an investment in this type of technology, also consider where you are going to integrate the technology; what systems, what applications might you potentially integrate with the phones? Going back to it, what we see is improved satisfaction, not only on the part of the end-users, the clinicians, nurses, and doctors, but also patient care really improves as you are getting more of the information flow opened up and more alerts sent to these end devices.

Don Fluckinger: One other question that occurs to me, why would you get one of these wireless VOIP systems instead of just integrating it in your cell phone system? I would assume, security, or cost, or what makes somebody get one of these when their nurses and physicians are already carrying around a smart phone that might be able to plug into the MR and you can get coverage outside the facility, and so on and so forth?

Jeremy Goff:   You bring up a good point. One of the findings in the report was that organizations are looking at the smart phone technologies; iPhone, Blackberry, so they are considering these technologies, mainly for the reason you just explained. Physicians especially, they do not want to carry around ten different devices.  They walk into the hospital, they already got their phone, their iPhone, their Blackberry. Adoption is lower with physicians for this very same reason. To answer your question, they are considering how to work with this technology, how to either integrate some of the capabilities, or how to go to that technology altogether. The answer to the other part of your question, the reason why they really have not, is some of these systems have not really been hospital-grade ready, in terms of durability or security. There are some security issues. Frankly, there is durability issues, especially on the nursing side, where nurses come in, they work hard, they work long hours, these devices get dropped. We had one nurse tell us, ‘It is not uncommon for us to drop these things in toilets.’ If they are not hospital-ready - waterproof, sanitizing proof - then all of a sudden you have just lost the $500 investment in that device.

Smart phones, cellular technology, we find that it is the future; they do want the smarter technology. Yet I think in terms of being hospital-ready, for security as well as durability, those are questions that organizations are asking themselves.

Don Fluckinger: Alright. Thank you very much for your time today.

Jeremy Goff: You are welcome.

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